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Real Space: The fate of physical presence in the digital age, on and off planet [Hardcover]

Paul Levinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 17, 2003 0415277434 978-0415277433 0
Is planet earth the end of the line, or is space itself the next stop?
Cyberspace. It's incredible, taking us to any part of the planet we want to visit. But as Paul Levinson shows in his brilliant new book, when it comes to transport, we're still stuck in the past, preferring to take our bodies with us. Whether it's trains, yachts, scooters or pogo-sticks, we're compelled to keep moving, our movements curtailed only by the earth itself. In our imaginations however, we soar way past the limits of current technology.

With a lucid but reflective style that takes in everything from robots and science fiction to religion and philosophy, Paul Levinson asks why there is a deep seated human desire to know what's 'out there'. Why, after getting a man on the moon, did the US space program develop so slowly? In a world where space is constantly repackaged, how do we know what real space is? Is our desire to get into space natural, or a religious craving, and is it a modern phenomenon, or did our ancestors also dream of escaping the clutches of Mother Earth?

Jam-packed with exciting, innovative, even revolutionary thinking about our future, Realspace is essential reading for everyone who has ever sat at their desk, gazed into the distance and imagined boarding a space shuttle...

Editorial Reviews


"those interested in the relations between cyberspace, 'real space' and outer space, should relish this challenging and mind-opening read" --Publisher's Weekly

"RealSpace is an essential, thought-provoking purchase." --Midwest Book Review

"a gem of reflection" --Public Intelligence Blog

"a rich, original, and sophisticated work that will be rewarding reading both for science fiction enthusiasts and for professionals in the history and sociology of science and technology"
--Edward Tenner, author of Why Things Bite Back

...engagingly humane and commonsensical.
–Albert Borgmann, author of Holding on to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium

...a rich, original, and sophisticated work that will be rewarding reading both for science fiction enthusiasts and for professionals in the history and sociology of science and technology.
– Edward Tenner, author of Why Things Bite Back

...a lucid argument for injecting new passion into the exploration of outer space.He is one of our very best writers on technology because he presents the big picture.
–Michael Heim, author of The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality

About the Author

Paul Levinson's The Soft Edge (1997) and Digital McLuhan (1999) have been the subject of major articles in The New York Times and Wired and have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and six other languages. Digital McLuhan won the Lewis Mumford Award for Outstanding Scholarship, and Levinson's science fiction novel The Silk Code won the 2000 Locus Award for Best First Novel. Additional science fiction novels include Borrowed Tides (2001) and The Consciousness Plague (2002). He has appeared on 'Inside Edition', CNN, The History Channel, CSPAN, Fox News, NPR, the BBC, and the CBC. He was President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 1998-2001, and is Professor and Chair of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (June 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415277434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415277433
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,084,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My novel The Silk Code won the Locus Award for Best First Nove1 of 1999, and was published as an "author's cut" Kindle edition in 2012. My other science fiction and mystery novels include Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002, 2013), The Pixel Eye (2003, 2014), The Plot To Save Socrates (2006; author's cut Kindle 2012; Entertainment Weekly called it "challenging fun"), and Unburning Alexandria (2013). My short stories have been nominated for Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Sturgeon Awards. Nine nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), Cellphone (2004), and New New Media (2009, 2nd edition 2012) have been the subject of major articles in the New York Times, Wired, the Christian Science Monitor, and have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Polish, and eight other languages. I appear from time to time on MSNBC, Fox News ("The O'Reilly Factor"), The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, NPR, BBC Radio and other TV and radio programs - I like talking just as much as writing. I'm also a songwriter, and have been in several bands over the years - one had two records out on Atlantic Records in 1960s. My 1972 album Twice Upon a Rhyme (on HappySad Records) was re-issued on CD by Beatball/Big Pink Records in 2009, and on re-pressed vinyl by Whiplash/Sound of Salvation Records in 2010. I was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Top 10 Academic Twitterers" in 2009, and review the best of television on my Infinitte blog and on Starpulse. Last but not least: I have a PhD in Media Theory from New York University and am Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a helpful handbook for advocates of human spaceflight. In the summer of 2004 esteemed space scientist James A. Van Allen, asked the poignant question, "Is human spaceflight obsolete?" He added: "Does human spaceflight continue to serve a compelling cultural purpose and/or our national interest?...Risk is high, cost is enormous, science is insignificant. Does anyone have a good rationale for sending humans into space?" Paul Levinson has an answer, one that should at least prove convincing to those wanting to believe even if it might not convince James Van Allen.

Levinson says essentially that while cyberspace made virtual exploration of almost anything possible it has also demonstrated an under-appreciated fact of the human existence, cyberspace is a pale comparison to reality. We continue to seek firsthand human experience to understand and experience the universe. He addresses the full range of rationales for spaceflight, suggesting that the human desire to experience and explore is what makes us fully human. This is a work of advocacy that is poignant and provocative, suggesting that our desire to fly in space is just as much spiritual and eternal as it is practical, political, economic, and military.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For any science collection or reader August 8, 2003
Cyberspace is part of daily living, with most people spending part or most of each day on the Internet. But what happens to reality when technology moves more and more into the virtual world? Realspace addresses a myriad of issues and concerns in the course of such a move; from the human need to explore and the lack of efforts to further space exploration to why humans need to constantly expand knowledge bases. Realspace is an essential, thought-provoking purchase for any science collection or reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem of Reflection September 22, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am sorry to say that with all the reading I do, this is the first time I have come across Paul Levinson. This is a gem of a book, and I will attend to anything else he write, and hope to hear him in person someday.

The author, the book, and by the authors account, California, converges four vectors:

- Cyberspace where its just information, not "real"
- Outer Space, where he believes we need to go
- Inner Space, with hightened spiritual awareness being important
- RealSpace, which only live beings with all their senses can engage

I found this gem to be absorbing and it rounded out my Sunday morning reading quite nicely. Some bullets I took away:

- No senses of smell, touch, taste in cyberspace
- Knowledge is not Experience
- Walking and talking are intertwined
- Cell phone is antidote to Interent, restores ability to work in the real world and not be chained to a computer or cubicle
- Makes care for business, not governments, to fund space exploration
- Discusses robots as useful for some things but no substitute for humans
- Discusses how much we missed in our evaluation of Mars until we actually had a real soil sample with traces of bacteria
- Wants a World Spaceport Center at WTC site in NYC, adds chapter on terrorism and sspace.

The selected bibliography, with annotation, is quite remarkable. I am only familiar with a third of what is catalogued there.

This book helped me understand Jeff Bezos better, and that is always useful.

The author buys into the myths of 9/11. This is disappointing.

Some other books that his is a complement to:
... Read more ›
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Status quo repackaged and overpriced January 26, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Here is a book that seems always on the verge of making a difference, or at least a point, but never gets there. Why did the U.S. space program progress so slowly after the Moon landings while communication technology grew by leaps and bounds? That's Levinson's central question and I'll be damned if I know what his answer is after reading this book. Chapter 4 ends with the promise that chapter 5 will discuss it, but instead there's a discourse on California culture during the Space Age, and how Natural philosophy has only recently eclipsed moral and intellectual philosophy. Huh? I would have appreciated something prescriptive to connect the dots. The closest thing to an intellectual risk Levinson takes is to say that humans will gain a better picture of their place in the universe if they explore space personally, not just with robots. Oh, and perhaps NASA (he sees no serious alternative to government space programs) is not packaging the experience right. Really? There's not even enough in here to tell whether Levinson is wrong. The book is a charming mind-screw littered with historical nuggets, such as how Diego Columbus's books about his father's voyages of discovery became best-sellers. But for $27.95 suggested retail, I expected something a lot more bold and relevant.
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